Tradition, history of religious Holy Days within December

By USAG Stuttgart Religious Support Office

December always seems like a busy month with lots of preparation for the holidays, and vacation time for some families. December is a significant month for religions as well. The common theme is light overcomes darkness throughout most of these celebrations. Briefly explore some of these “Holy Days” and some of the places to find additional resources.

advent photos dot state dot govAdvent Calendar and the Advent Wreath

Within the Christian faiths, Advent is a time of preparation for the Birth of Christ as well as the Second Coming of Christ. There are many traditions that are a part of Advent including the Advent Calendar and the Advent Wreath. The advent wreath consists of four candles—each representing a Sunday in Advent and evergreen. Each Sunday the candle is lit as prayers and Scripture are read. The Advent Calendar was first used by German Lutherans and is still quite popular today as a way to count down the days until Christmas.

There are online Advent Calendars that can be used in place of a traditional one.

Earth-lighting-winter-solstice_ENWinter Solstice, or Yule

Wiccans and Druids celebrate the Winter Solstice. Wiccan celebration is also known as “Yule.” This is a celebration of the sun’s rebirth as the days now become longer and the nights become shorter. There are several different traditions here as well. Wiccans see Yule as a time to spend with friends and family, exchange gifts and honor the sun. Homes are decorated with red, green and white decorations. Evergreen is used to decorate as well.

For more information, check out the following website http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulethelongestnight/a/About_Yule.htm.

chanukahHanukkah

The Jewish faith celebrates Hanukkah. Hanukkah is one of the most well-known and holiest of days for the Jewish faith—known as the festival of lights. It is a celebration of eight days. A menorah is a nine candle stand is used for families celebrating the festival. The prayers, blessings and songs are said together as a family as the candles are light each evening.  “On Sabbath eve, Hanukkah candles are lit before sunset; on Saturday night, after nightfall. The light of freedom overcoming the darkness of tyranny is a key Hanukkah message.” (Jewish Chaplain Council Brochure) Gift giving is a part of the celebration.

For more information visit the Jewish Welfare Board’s website at http://jcca.org/jwb/holiday-resources/ or http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/default_cdo/jewish/Hanukkah.htm.

The Prophet Muhammed was born in Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia that is revered as holy by Muslims. ©iStockphoto.com/afby71

The Prophet Muhammed was born in Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia that is revered as holy by Muslims.
©iStockphoto.com/afby71

Eid Milad ul-Nabi

Finally towards the end of December Islam will celebrate the birth of Muhammed—Eid Milad ul-Nabi. Muhammed is known not only as the great prophet that delivered the Qu’ran but also as the great prophet that delivered divine mercy to the world. The celebrations include decorations, and songs of praise for Muhammed. The celebration of the birth of Muhammed is known as Mawlid.

There are several different websites for more information on this celebration, visit www.whyislam.org or www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/holydays/miladunnabi.shtml.

While this was merely a summary of several of the religious Holy Days within December, the Religious Support Office encourages every individual to take some time to explore how their faith celebrates its Holy Days during December. As always, the Religious Support Office is available to provide literature and resources for the different faith traditions.

For information on the RSO or to contact the Chaplain’s office, visit www.stuttgart.army.mil/services-rso.html.